Confessions of a Quackbuster

This blog deals with healthcare consumer protection, and is therefore about quackery, healthfraud, chiropractic, and other forms of so-Called "Alternative" Medicine (sCAM).

Monday, January 24, 2005

Chiropractic school faces key vote

Jan. 23, 2005

Chiropractic school faces key vote

Result could drive wedge between board, Legislature Editor's note: As the Board of Governors faces making a decision about the fate of Florida State University's chiropractic program, the Tallahassee Democrat examines the issue. Monday: Is there a need for more Florida chiropractors?

By Melanie Yeager


Members of the Board of Governors thought they were perfectly clear in May:

Despite legislative approval and a $9 million spending tab, no chiropractic school should begin at Florida State University without the state board's approval.

On Nov. 12, FSU advertised for a chiropractic school dean in The Chronicle of Higher Education's online job ads.

A week later, the governors drove home their earlier message, demanding again that FSU bring its plans before the state board before proceeding.

They get their wish Thursday, but not exactly as they hoped. FSU trustees have taken no position on the program initiated by lawmakers. They are asking the Board of Governors for more time to examine their own proposal.

"I believe our board is prepared to make a decision," Carolyn Roberts, chairwoman of the state board, said Friday. "It would not surprise me if it were an up or down vote."

It's unlikely the state board would support the program because it hasn't been fully vetted by the university. But it could vote to reject it or send it back to FSU for more work. The governors are faced with asserting their authority over a graduate program that the Legislature already has authorized.

This battle for control has dominated any discussions the state board has had about the chiropractic program. Several state board members have said this legislatively created chiropractic program should not be the first test case for who manages the state's 11 universities. They say legislative plans to create the chiropractic program were well under way before the voters created the state board to run universities in late 2002.

But other state board members have been eager to demonstrate the board's power. A suit filed last month in Leon County Circuit Court alleges Gov. Jeb Bush and the Legislature violated a constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2002 that created the Board of Governors to manage universities.

Meanwhile, FSU's stuck trying to please two authorities - the Legislature, which holds the purse strings, and the Board of Governors, which approves graduate and professional programs.

Some board members concerned

FSU has submitted a 100-plus page proposal for the program that spells out the state's need for a chiropractic program, how it fits the state's higher-education mission and how it will be implemented. Board members have copies of that proposal, the board's staff analysis of that proposal and reviews by two consultants: Richard Stevens, an associate professor of medicine (neurology) and anatomy at Dartmouth Medical School who has medical and chiropractic degrees; and David Wickes, executive vice president and provost of Western States Chiropractic College.

Board members reached last week - including John Dasburg and Lynn Pappas -said they are not making up their minds until the board meeting. The 17-member board includes 14 appointees by Gov. Jeb Bush, the education commissioner, the chairman of the Advisory Council on Faculty Senates and the president of the Florida Student Association.

"I have an open mind regarding the chiropractic-school issue," said John Winn, education commissioner. "However, I am concerned that we may not have a completed proposal on which to act."

Several other board members agreed.

"There's a process in place, and any new Ph.D. or professional-degree program that's approved at the Board of Governors level should have gone through all the various steps," said Dreamal Worthen, Florida A&M University professor and the state board's faculty representative.

Steve Uhlfelder admitted it's hard to vote positively with the information given.

"I haven't been excited over this program, but I'm not one of these people who thinks if it came up in the Legislature, it's a bad idea," Uhlfelder said. Several of the state universities' professional programs, especially medical and law schools, were created by lawmakers without the blessing of state education officials.

But he said he's not getting any indication that FSU really wants the program. FSU trustees had a chance to endorse it, but they didn't. Many FSU faculty members have been fighting it.

"Extending time to debate this further - I'm not sure it would solve much," Uhlfelder said.

Up to the Board of Governors

Several FSU trustees have made their opinions known. Dr. Jessie Furlow, June Duda and Manny Garcia were ready to vote against the proposal.

"I hope you will join me in encouraging the Board of Governors to kill this proposal and not waste the time and money it will take for our faculty to come up with the obvious conclusion," Garcia wrote in a letter last week to his fellow trustees.

He said he's not condemning chiropractic care, but he feels strongly his board made a mistake sending the proposal on to the state board without "a strong negative message."

"We certainly have spectacular medical-school facilities; we do not need the reputation of being the first medical school in the USA and Canada to 'dabble' in reputed 'quackery.'"

But at least one trustee disagrees. Andy Haggard said he is prepared to support a chiropractic program at FSU.

"Someone is going to be the first university that does have a chiropractic school. Whether that's FSU - that's up to the board of trustees or the Board of Governors," he said.

It's not up to the naysayers such as Dr. Ray Bellamy, a Tallahassee orthopedic surgeon, he said. Bellamy has led the charge against the school and called trustees "cowards" for not taking a stance, he said.

Said Haggard: "I want to see the bashing stop."

Jarrett Eady, student member of the state board who also sits on FSU's trustees board, said he's no authority on chiropractic medicine, but he does have concerns about any program that has divided FSU's campus as this one has. He's heard from undergraduate students who support it and think FSU should be a trendsetter in chiropractic education. He's also heard from graduate students, who are worried it will erode the university's reputation for scientific research.

If Roberts has her way, Thursday's Board of Governors meeting will not become a debate about the merits of chiropractic care, but instead discussion will focus on whether the state needs such a program at FSU.

Now it's up to the Board of Governors to take a stand, she said.

"FSU decided not to make a decision, ... They didn't take the responsibility," Roberts said. "I wanted them to make a firm decision up or down. I'm disappointed that they did not. I understand their reasoning, but that doesn't stop me from being disappointed."